Dean paged calmly through the newspaper as he waited.
The washers nearby thrummed a steady beat. Occasionally a clatter of a pant button would echo through one of the machines washing up the sum total of all the clothes he owned excepting the ones he wore on his back. It was a sparse life, the hunting life, but it never bothered him. When the clothes were bloodied or torn beyond repair, he'd simply use them while he worked on the car, or for cleaning his weapons. When the grime became too much, he'd retire them to a dumpster and move on to the next set of clothing, acquired at thrift shops. The system worked for him and there was no need to change it.
Sam and Jacob didn't have any clothes in the wash, but that was for other reasons. They didn't have the option to go out and buy clothing at the closest store for themselves. The only thing Dean would be able to find that was even close to their sizes was doll clothing, and that tended to be tacky, harsh fabric. It wasn't made to actually be worn, but displayed. Past Dean pranking them by replacing their clothes with doll clothes (a thought that had occurred to him more than once), there was no reason they'd ever buy doll clothing.
If they put their clothes in the wash with his, even in a small bag made to keep delicates separate, a lot of extra wear would be put on the thin cloth. The shirts and pants would go threadbare much faster, and they'd have to find a way to replace the clothes. No, the two smaller brothers contented themselves with handwashing what they could. Once in awhile Dean would try and help, but more often than not he was chased off when he knocked an absolutely miniscule sock to the ground.
Dean circled an article in the paper that put up red flags to the part of him always watching for a case, then distractedly chewed at the pen. With any luck, this was worth checking out. He hated to spend time waiting around.
He knew there were things out there lurking around, waiting for a chance to attack, but he couldn't see them. It made him antsy, edgy. A case would help him focus.
While he was pondering the paper, a quarter slid out from underneath a washer. A smile quirked at the corner of Dean's mouth at the sight. He put the pen down, leaning over to pick up the coin and add it to the pile resting between his legs while he straddled the hard wooden bench. It was doubling as a table for his paper.
"Only four more and we've got enough for all the batches tonight!" Dean announced jokingly. "You two must be on a roll down there!"
Dean wasn't wrong.
Sam and Jacob, exploring the landscape beneath the row of washing machines, had found quite a few interesting things. Clouds made of dark grey lint bigger than both of them formed a maze of fluff and dust, which coated their clothes and hair; they'd need to shake themselves off once they emerged. The pattern of the linoleum tiles was just as hard to see as that on the open floor, though rather then faded from years of foot traffic it was coated in the same dust. Years of fuzzy buildup waited down there in the shadows.
Even though they were small, with Sam clocking in at four inches even, the pair had to stoop a little as they navigated under the hulking machines. The washers were raised on sturdy legs with simple grates fixed to the front to hide the dusty mess below. The loud machines roared overhead, but they were used to everything being loud.
It was perfect for exploring. They couldn't be seen as they made their way, but they'd still be able to squeeze under the grate if they needed to make a rapid escape. The machine they currently walked under rattled despite not being on. Down the line, another machine had begun a particularly vigorous spin cycle on Dean's jeans that the two smaller brothers could feel shaking everything around it, including the floor beneath their feet and the machine above their heads. The air filled with the thrum.
Even the late hour didn't faze them. They'd normally be back in a motel room right that moment, either looking at the computer, watching some TV, or getting into bed under the nightstand, but the time had come for Dean to wash his clothes. That meant an entirely new environment for Sam and Jacob to check out. They might have visited laundromats before shrinking, but now their size opened up all the possibilities underneath the boxy machines. Not to mention all the dropped quarters they had been able to find down there.
With no one else around, they had the freedom and safety to go looking for new things. Even if someone else decided to come in at this late hour, Dean was right out there. He'd never let anything happen to them, and they both knew it. The hunter was one of the largest humans around, and not one to be trifled with. Dean had sworn to look after them no matter what.
Jacob stooped lower to push a dustbunny out of the way and picked up a black elastic hair tie. Brushing it off, he held it out to Sam with a smirk. "Your hair's been getting pretty long, maybe you oughta hold onto this," he quipped.
Sam gave him a flat look. While his hair was indeed longer than Jacob’s short brown hair, and relatively longer than Dean’s spike (in reality, the hair probably spiked up about two inches, at least, half Sam and Jacob’s height), it was only just past his ears. Fluffy brown locks that currently were sticking out with a dustbunny clinging to his bangs.
Sam shook his hair out, grabbing the elastic away from Jacob. “That’s so funny I forgot to laugh,” he said. Spotting another quarter buried under lint a few inches away, Sam darted over to it. This time, he kicked it with all his might, making it clatter and catch some air. It ended up rolling to the center of the room, crashing straight into Dean’s boot.
Sam grinned triumphantly. “Farthest quarter yet,” he shot back at Jacob.
At the same time, their older brother’s voice rang out overhead, “Three more! At this rate I won’t need to bring money with me to wash clothes anymore. You two are like a secret weapon.” Dean’s hand came down into view, snatching the quarter off of the ground and into his powerful grasp with ease.
While the hand whisked into the air with the newly-acquired money, Sam took advantage of a momentary distraction and tossed the elastic over Jacob’s chest.
And yanked against him as hard as he could with the elastic.
Jacob was caught off guard by the sudden tug and stumbled aside in surprise. "Wha?" he blurted, though in the practiced quieter tone after a few years living in hiding. He twisted against the hair band, but it partially pinned his arms and he couldn’t counter Sam's move or shove him away.
Jacob had to snicker. Of course he'd be ambushed like this. He gave Sam his weapon. "Good work," he said, though there was a defiant kind of smirk on his face. Jacob was harder to restrain than that, thanks to an unnatural strength that he had discovered sometime after being cursed. While everyone at their scale seemed to have greater proportional strength, Jacob left even that far behind him.
"C'mon, I have to get my chance to break your quarter-throwing record. Dean's still in the red and you're messing around? For shame," Jacob shook his head in mock disappointment, though he couldn't wipe the smile off his face. He curled his elbows to grab hold of the elastic and planted his feet before yanking back on it, aiming to either pull it from Sam's grip or make his brother stumble in return.
“Gah!” The elastic was yanked out of Sam’s grasp, sending it snapping back towards Jacob. Sam was nowhere near as prepared as his little brother for the backlash, stumbling forward a few steps before he managed to catch his balance.
His attempt failed, Sam straightened and he brushed off a particularly large dustbunny from his shoulder, composing himself. “You’ve got plenty of work to do to beat that quarter throw,” he bragged shamelessly. Dean was sitting in the middle of the room, leaving him a good six feet away from the smaller brothers. It would take the hunter seconds to cross (otherwise he’d probably be leaning against one of the machines they were underneath to satisfy his drive to hover protectively whenever he could), but would take Sam and Jacob a minimum of ten or twenty seconds to make it to him.
Jacob glanced out from under the washing machine while he pulled the hair tie back over his head. It was a long way to go. A wide expanse of floor that normally would be beyond daunting to consider crossing at any point. At least they knew no one else was in the laundromat, so if they really needed to, they could run straight to Dean.
"Oh, I'll break the record," Jacob assured Sam after a moment. "Soon as I find ..." he trailed off, pushing aside dustbunnies as he searched for another of the silvery coins. He had to suppress a sneeze from all the dust they were kicking up, but he did find what he was looking for in due time.
Jacob picked up the wide disk and glanced over the face embossed on its surface. He prepared to fling it like a frisbee, hoping to get it at least as far as Dean's boot, still in view despite the low visibility from their angle.
Jacob paused, getting an idea when he looked at the hair tie still clutched in his other hand. With a grin, he knelt and planted one boot on it, stretching it straight up. After fumbling a little, Jacob managed to pull the makeshift slingshot back with the quarter, and took aim. Thinking there was no way he'd lose this friendly little competition of theirs, he let go, firing the quarter out from under the washing machine.
It didn't go exactly as he planned. It wobbled in the air and clattered against the floor, somehow managing to roll on its side for a few feet and swerve wide of where Dean sat. Jacob chuckled at the miss, shrugging to admit that he'd missed his shot by a country mile. "Well, technically that one did travel pretty far," he pointed out to Sam, standing up again (as much as he could under the low ceiling).
Sam rolled his eyes. “I guess we can count it as a tie,” he said dryly. “I’ll let your awful aim slide just this once. But you might end up with Dean trying to teach you how to aim the next time he gets the chance. Since, y’know, you can’t hit the broadside of a barn and all that.”
The hunter out in the open shifted his position on the bench while Sam was talking. The boot closest to them scraped along the floor, and this time when Dean’s hand came into view, he was clearly stretching to reach the wayward coin. A fingertip the size of either smaller brother’s head aimed to brush at its edge.
“Did one of you get into the whiskey before we got here?” came a curious tone. Dean caught the coin just at the edge, dragging it along the floor so he’d be able to reach it without having to get up.
The motion of the hand paused when Sam shouted his own message towards the center, going against all of his embedded instincts to let a human know where they were. “Jacob just naturally throws like that!”
His outcry resulted in an amused chuckle as the coin was lifted up between two fingers. “Maybe he can work on that with the last two coins we need.”
"Eeeeveryone's a critic," Jacob drawled, throwing his hands up and rolling his eyes in exasperation. With a very put upon sigh, he set to searching for more quarters. They had already covered quite a bit of ground in their exploration underneath the many washing machines. It was amazing how much change had been dropped, not to mention the various knick knacks they'd already passed by. Part of their instincts said to collect every item they found, but they resisted. They weren’t desperate anymore.
Jacob abandoned the hair tie, since it had betrayed him. It landed atop a gnarly looking ball of lint, most likely cleared out from one of the dryers in the laundromat after a few too many cycles. Such things were commonplace down here. There was more material in that one mound of lint than there was in all the clothes on their backs.
After hunting around a few more dust piles, Jacob found another quarter. This time he threw it like he had been doing, getting a light spin on it like a frisbee. It skidded across the tile, sliding to a stop short of Dean's boot. Jacob gave a self-deprecating laugh. "Seriously? If it's not one thing it's another," he complained. In truth, the miss didn’t bother him very much, but still he rolled his eyes.
Sam snickered, going over to where another glint of silver was poking out from under a mess of lint. He ignored the sight of Dean plucking up the latest quarter. “You’ll just have to practice to be as awesome as I am.”
He hefted it up, staring down at the face on the coin for a minute. Occasionally it came to him that this should seem odd, holding up a coin a third his size. These days, it was normal. It didn’t bother him at all, unlike when he’d first woken up after being cursed. Seeing even a penny back then, a penny the size of a flattened soccer ball, had terrified him. Then came the revelation that everything was oversized like that.
Now, things were different. Not only was he adjusted to his size, he had someone who understood exactly how it felt and a human that watched out for them. Dean might feel a little left out of adventures like this, but none of them would change his size for the world. It was exactly what they needed.
Sam offered the last quarter they needed to Jacob. “How about you give it another shot and break my record?” he said with a grin.
Jacob took the coin with a smirk. "Well I have to at least try or you'll never let us hear the end of it, will you?" he quipped. Still, the light encouragement in Sam's words was not lost on Jacob, and he found himself hoping he could manage it. He’d always looked up to Sam, all his years at cursed size.
He crouched, pushing aside the nearest dust ball to get a clear shot. He put as much power as he could into his throw this time, which was a decent amount considering his extra helping of strength. Jacob had even managed to almost lift a vase off of himself and escape being trapped underneath it.
By Dean, no less. Even then, before Dean had decided to accept Jacob into his family, before he'd realized Sam was alive, Dean had been impressed by the feat. Jacob had surprised himself there, and was still proud of the accomplishment even though he hadn't succeeded in time. Something several times his weight was simple to lift if he only got the right angle on it.
With that strength behind it, the quarter skidded across the floor with barely a whisper of sound before skidding just barely past the heel of Dean's boot. Jacob grinned, pumping his fist in triumph. "Ha. Made it," he said, glancing over at Sam to make sure he'd seen.
"There's hope for you yet," Sam said with a smirk.
Dean watched the last coin skid out from under the washing machine with a smile. It was definitely handy to have two pint-size brothers around to find the things that people lost. With any luck, by the time they left the laundromat, they'd have a collection of quarters for the next trip, or even for tolls on the road.
"Just in time," he announced as he leaned over to grab the last coin from the ground. The buzzer on the washers went off, indicating how true his words were.
Dean scooped all his brothers’ findings into a hand and stood. He was careful as he approached the line of washers against the wall, keeping a sharp eye out for either of his little little brothers. They were easy enough to overlook if he wasn't paying attention, and he refused to ever drop his guard. It would only take a second's mistake to get either of them injured, and he'd promised to never let that happen. He wanted their trust. Never their fear.
He busied himself switching out the clothes. There were two washers worth, so he took the time to move them over one load at a time. The dryer's lint tray was full, displaying exactly how much the other patrons cared about getting their clothes dry in a timely fashion, not to mention just plain being a fire hazard. He rolled his eyes, slightly disgusted as he cleaned the lint out for his load. It got dropped into the trash with no further ado.
The quarters that had shot out from under the line of washers and dryers was just enough to cover what he needed, so as he started up the second washer, he called out "So, who's up to find another batch of quarters? We could always use extra," with a grin. They both seemed to love the chance to explore, even somewhere as dark and dusty as underneath the washers in a laundromat.
Jacob, already near the edge of the washing machine they currently waited under, knelt to peer out. He hesitated only a moment, making doubly sure that no other humans were in the laundromat, before poking his head out from under the machine to send a look all the way up at Dean.
It used to be absolutely terrifying, this angle of him. Dean was already tall compared to many humans. Standing on the ground at a little under four inches tall was something else entirely, and if Jacob didn't know he could trust the man, he'd be skittering back for the cover under the washer. Knowing that intense pair of eyes could find him easily didn't faze him.
"What, that wasn't enough for you?" he called, shaking his head in mock disappointment. "All that work and he wants more quarters, Sam."
Dean smirked as he saw Sam poke his head out next to Jacob. He knelt down, bringing their perspective of him to a slightly more manageable level, though he still felt obnoxiously big with them so small. “Hey, you two gotta earn your keep somehow,” he joked. He reached out a hand, lightly brushing a fingertip across both of their heads to ruffle their hair. Tiny bits of dust and lint floated down, shaken free by his antics.
Dean grimaced as he took his hand back, pretending to shake off the dust. “It’s like I’ve got two dust devils for brothers,” he bemoaned. “You better shake off after you’re done if you plan on riding the Dean express back to the car.”
Putting his hands on his knees, Dean pushed himself to a stand. “Maybe you two can get something from the vending machine if you find enough quarters. And you won’t even have to snitch it.”
Jacob brushed his own hand through his hair a few times to shake out more dust. It was remarkable how much fell loose to the floor, but then again they were practically rolling in lint down there. "Who knew earning our room and food could be so dusty," he lamented with a smirk.
Ducking back under the washing machine, he shrugged. "Might as well keep looking, right? We might get enough for a whole Hershey bar!" he said with a grin to Sam. Chocolate was something they'd had to go without for a long time before Dean came along. Now they had access to blocks of the stuff that weighed more than they did. Besides, exploring was fun so far, so why stop now?